‘s debut full-length album, last year’s Sports
, may have shared its name with Huey Lewis & the News’ most famous record, but the two came from polar sonic hemispheres. In fact, the San Francisco trio’s gnarled shoegaze seemed to sullenly scorn the album’s title, the melodies gasping for air from under a dog pile of white noise and frontman Shaun Durkan’s cryptic lyrics of suburban alienation. It was a chugging, if gloomy, affair from three Bay Area dudes who probably didn’t play a lot of sports or Sports
They’ve uncluttered their sound on their latest release, Red, a five-song EP that plows through the same unsettling, white fence dystopia with more precision and an overall clearer aesthetic. Opener “Sweet Sixteen” keeps the plodding drumbeat and ethereal guitars separate, each crescendoing on their own terms instead of melting together in a static soup. Durkan’s lyrics are also more discernible. While his distinctive vocal tone is still ghostly, the crisper production bows down to chopped, eerie phrases such as “real gold watch/play pearl sun dogs/glare my eyes/ripping at the hairs on my wrist” on album closer “Golfers”, the cut that most emphasizes their apocalyptic take on summer, teen romance, and country clubs.
The record’s standout is lead single “Hazel”, which perfectly marries the band’s bog of sound with radio catch, thanks to a descending, four-note bass line whose haunting momentum would fit in nicely on any Joy Division record. It may sound straight out of the ’80s, but Sports it is not.
Essential Tracks: “Hazel”